I have been making mead for about 4 years now and this is probably one of my favorite batches that I have made. This instructable is for anyone interested in trying mead or starting to experiment with other flavors of mead. This is a relatively inexpensive mead; most of the time you can get your ingredients at a local grocery store or home brew store. This mead will produce an alcohol by volume (ABV) of about 10-12 percent, depending on how long you let it sit in the primary fermenter.
I will show you my personal process for making mead; there is no right or wrong way to make it. Some individuals might disagree with what I do, however, everyone is entitled to their own opinion on how to make mead or other home brew. My process takes roughly 1 hour to create the mead, 3 weeks in the primary fermenter and a couple of months in the secondary fermenter (I would recommend 2-3 months in the secondary) .
Step 1: Things You'll Need
Not all of these materials will be needed initially; they will be used in later steps. I will specify which items won't be used right away which will give you time to get them if you do not already have them. If you do not have an item, I would recommend buying it, although some items are optional. If you have a local home brew store nearby, I would recommend supporting them and buying all the materials there. Otherwise buy online; one company that I trust is Northern Brewer. I have been buying from them for several years and they are always trustworthy. I will supply links for ease of access for those of you that do not have a local home brew store.
Items you will need right away to make your mead:
2 one Gallon Carboy with Airlock and Bung - The one gallon carboys will be used for the primary and the secondary fermentations. I recommend buying the combo set because then you don't need to meander around looking for a bung that fits the one gallon carboy. Here is a link to the carboy with airlock and bung set that I own http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/small-batch-fe...
3 Pounds of Honey - Honey is rather expensive to buy and can sometimes be hard to find the exact honey that you want. I get my honey from my local brew store and I generally use orange blossom honey because it has an amazing taste, but that is my personal opinion. You can get any type of honey you want, as long as it isn't a generic brand honey from Walmart or your grocery store. Try to buy honey online, if you can, or support your local bee keeper. I get my honey form Northern Brewer, Dutch Gold Honey and Midwest Supplies. You can find the honey at theses websites respective to the previous listing: http://home-brewing.northernbrewer.com/search?asu... https://www.dutchgoldhoney.com/, and http://home-brewing.northernbrewer.com/search?asu...
Lalvin D47 Yeast - I always use Lalvin D47 yeast when making mead. I find that this yeast brings out the most flavor when fermenting, there are several different yeasts on the market but my personal go to is the Lalvin D47. http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/lalvin-white-w... Another site that is helpful for deciding which yeast to use is http://www.gotmead.com/recipes-a-mead-making-mead... I've used this site numerous times to help decide what kind of yeast I should use when making mead.
1 Gallon of Spring Water - You can buy spring water at a local grocery store. It is generally located in the same aisle as water and soft drinks.
3 Pounds of Cherries - In this instructable, I use 3 pounds of frozen cherries bought from my grocery store. Since it's not cherry season, I couldn't use fresh cherries. If you plan on using fresh cherries you will need to pit and pluck the stems. Make sure that the cherries are left out for a little bit to thaw. If you forget to thaw them, place the bag under warm water and let it run over the cherries for a little bit; this will thaw the cherries enough for crushing them.
Couple Packets of Sanitizer - There are several good sanitizers on the market, but make sure you get a no-rinse sanitizer. It will make your job easier and generally allows for faster sanitizing. The sanitizer I use is from Mr. Beer, its cheap and easy to use. Another sanitizer that I use is Star San. Here are the links to the two sanitizers: http://www.mrbeer.com/index/page/product/product_... and http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/star-san.html.
Spoon - Any type of spoon will work, as long as it is not wooden; wood can effect the taste of the mead and can cause other materials to be introduced to the mead. I use a plastic spoon in this example, but metal spoons work as well, just make sure it is long enough to reach the bottom of the large pot you will be using.
Funnel (optional) - A funnel is a useful item to have when doing any form of home brew; it eliminates any form of mess when pouring items into your carboy. However, this is not something that you absolutely need if you are tight on money. It will make it easier to pour the cherry juice into the one gallon carboy. If you do use a funnel, I recommend using a plastic one because there is less of a chance of the mead having an off flavor. Here is a link of the funnel I have: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/4-5-funnel.htm...
Large Bucket - The large bucket will come in handy when sanitizing items and smashing the cherries. Any bucket will do as long as it can hold 3 pounds of cherries and half a gallon of water. I use a brewing pot that I have used in the past to brew beer.
Potato Smasher - The potato smasher will be used to crush the cherries and stir them.
Cotton Cloth or Paper Towel - These are important for the sanitizing step.
Towel - A towel will be needed to cover the mead once it is done being made. This will prevent sunlight or other light from reaching the carboy and disrupting the production of yeast.
Items that won't be needed right away:
Siphon Cane - The siphon will be used to transfer you mead from the primary to the secondary. Here is a link where you can get a siphon: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/auto-siphon-1-...
Siphon Hose - I use a 3 foot siphon hose in this instructable. I recommend not going any smaller than 3 feet because it can cause unwanted air to enter your mead when transferring the mead to the secondary fermenter. The larger the siphon hose, the better. Here is a link where you can buy a siphon hose: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/5-16-id-siphon...
Bottling Wand (optional) - The bottling wand is helpful when bottling your mead; it allows for a clean and easy bottling process. However, you can bottle without the bottling wand; this requires you to pinch off the siphon hose at the top to prevent from spilling your precious mead. Here is a link where you can buy the bottling wand I have: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/spring-tip-bot...
Bottle Capper - The bottle capper will be used to cap your bottles. Here is a link where to buy a bottle capper: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/red-bottle-cap...
Bottle Caps - There are many different kinds of bottle caps that you can buy. I just buy the standard bottle caps; the type of bottle cap does not matter at all unless you are dealing with items that can explode and this is not one of those cases. Here is a link of the bottle caps that I use: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/fermenters-fav...
Bottles - One of the most important things to have at the end of this process are bottles to put your mead in. You do not want to use bottles that were bought at your grocery store that were left-over from your beer that you drank, rather you want to go and buy a new set of strong bottles. This will prevent your mead from breaking the bottles and creating as mess. This is generally a good practice to do, but you do not need to do it every time you make a mead or home brew. I use 12 oz bottles to bottle my mead; I'd much rather be able to finish a bottle of mead in one sitting rather than corking it and putting it back in the refrigerator like wine. Here is where you can get some 12 oz bottles http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/12-oz-beer-bott....
Step 2: Sanitizing
1. Start by pouring 1 gallon of warm water into your one gallon carboy and 1 gallon of water into your large bucket. Do not use your spring water for this; it will be used later for mixing with the honey and cherries.It is fine to use tap water or drinking water.
2. Once you have finished pouring 1 gallon into each of those containers, pour your sanitizer into them. If you are using the same sanitizer that I am, pour about half a packet into each container. If you are not using the same sanitizer as me, follow the instructions on the sanitizer that you are using.
3. Take your 1 one gallon carboy and place your hand over the nozzle and shake until the sanitizing solution is dissolved. If you have a cap, like me, that screws perfectly on top of the carboy, this is much better; just make sure you have sanitized it.
4. Take your spoon and stir the water in the pot until the sanitizing solution is dissolved.
5. Once you have shaken/stirred the solution, set a timer for 15 minutes.
During these 15 minutes, place the bung, airlock, potato smasher, spoon and funnel into the large bucket with the sanitizing solution. Also, during these 15 minutes, put your honey in the sink and fill the sink up until the honey is about halfway submerged.
6. After 15 minutes, take out the items in the large bucket and place it on a clean paper towel or on a clean cloth. This is very important, you'll want to make sure that these items stay clean; they are sanitized now. This will prevent bacteria from contaminating your mead.
7. Swirl the sanitizing solution around in the large bucket to coat the sides and the top of the bucket.
8. Dump the sanitizing solution from the bucket and the carboy down the sink. If you feel that you haven't sanitized everything yet, get a bowl out and pour some of the sanitizing solution in there, this will allow for mid-step sanitization.
If you have suds after dumping the sanitizer out, do not worry. Remember we are using a no rinse cleaner.
Step 3: Add the Honey
1. Now that your one gallon carboy is clean and your honey is warmed up, you are ready to pour the honey into the one gallon carboy.
You do not need to use the funnel for this step; it is rather easy to pour the honey into the carboy without the funnel. Make sure to get all the honey that you can out of the jar.
2. Once the honey is in the one gallon carboy, open your spring water and pour about 1/4 a gallon of water into the carboy.
This allows the water and the honey to mix together. If it doesn't seem like there is enough water in the carboy to mix the honey, then add a little bit more, but not too much. You'll need the water for later.
3. After the water is added to the carboy, wash your hands with non-scented soap and dry them off with a clean towel. Do not use the towel that you are using to set items on.
4. Your hand or cap on top of the nozzle of the carboy and shake the honey and water mixer until it is well mixed. The mixture should look similar to the last picture on this page.
Step 4: Crush the Cherries
1. As I stated in the first step, make sure that your cherries are thawed for this section otherwise it will be rather difficult to crush the cherries. If you forgot to crush the cherries, simply run the frozen bag under hot water for a couple of minutes or put them in a warm bath.
2. Once your cherries are thawed, dump all 3 pounds into the large bucket.
3. Start crushing the cherries with the potato smasher. If you are having troubles crushing the cherries, fully add 1/2 gallon of the spring water to the mix, this will allow the cherries to spread out making it easier to crush.
4. Crush the cherries until most of them are crushed.
I personally kept going until all the cherries were crushed, which took sometime. The more crushed the cherries are, the more juice you'll get from them. The more cherry juice, the more cherry flavor your mead will have.
5. After the cherries have been crushed, ladle the cherry remains out of the juice and place it in the trash.
This will prevent the cherry residue from clogging the funnel and getting into your mead. It is alright for some of the cherries to get into the mead because they can act as a yeast nutrient, but you do not want all the cherry residue to get into the mead. The reason you don't want a lot of cherry residue is to prevent from creating a canopy at the top of your carboy that doesn't allow that gasses to escape through the carboy. Also, a canopy can create bacteria, which will cause your mead to spoil.
Step 5: Mix the Cherry Juice With the Water and Honey Mixture
1. Now use the funnel to pour the cherry juice into the carboy with the honey and water mixture.
Make sure you get all the cherry juice in there; like I said the more cherry juice, the more flavor your mead will have. Your mixture should should look similar to the picture above before shaking, but it should be fuller. This picture was taken mid way through my cherry juice.
2. If the carboy is not filled to where it says 1 gallon, add your spring water in until it reaches that point, do not fill past that point.
3. Clean your hands again with non-scented soap and dry them off with a clean cloth. Now place your hand or cap on top of the carboy nozzle and shake until the mixture seems even and well distributed.
Step 6: Pitch Your Yeast
There are several ways to pitch yeast. I use the dry pitching method but others like to prepare their yeast a day before hand. Either method works, but I will be talking about how to dry pitch your yeast.
Dry pitching yeast is the easiest and fastest way to pitch yeast and there is very little chance of shocking or killing your yeast when you introduce it to the mead.
1. To dry pitch yeast open your yeast packet and pour half of the yeast packet into the 1 gallon carboy.
Some individuals would say to toss the entire packet into the 1 gallon carboy, but I think that is a little bit over kill because one yeast packet is supposed to be used for a 5 gallon batch.
2. Once you have poured the yeast into the carboy, take saran wrap or your sanitized cap and place it on top of the nozzle and gently shake the mead around.
DO NOT TOUCH THE NOZZLE WITH YOUR HANDS, EVEN IF THEY HAVE BEEN WASHED THOROUGHLY! This is very important because you have introduced yeast to the mead and your hands may have bacteria on them causing the mead to spoil.
3. After shaking the yeast around in the carboy, remove the saran wrap or the cap and place the sanitized bung in or screw it on top of the carboy. Make sure you are not touching the nozzle with your hands! Once the bung is placed, put the airlock in the bung hole.
4. Fill the airlock up until the middle piece is floating. Make sure that you don't over fill the airlock otherwise you will introduce more water to the system than you want. Your air lock should look similar to the last picture on this page.
Step 7: Waiting
You have now completed the first part of making your mead. Now comes the hard part, waiting for the mead to ferment.
1. Put your mead in a room where you won't be tempted to touch it. (I placed mine in my living room, but I don't have a whole lot of space in my apartment.)
2. Place a towel around the mead as I have.
This will prevent light from getting inside and disrupting the yeast. Yeast works the best under decent temperature and no light. The first fermentation will take about 4 weeks (aka one month). I recommend checking your mead once a week to see how the airlock is doing; if its bobbing right along without any problems, you are all good.
3. If it has stopped bobbing or is bobbing roughly every 30 seconds, it's nearly done fermenting. This will be right around 4 weeks give or take a week.
Step 8: Cold Crashing
After your airlock has slowed down to 1 bob per 30 seconds, it is ready to cold crash. Cold crashing basically kills or stops yeast. I rarely have issues with having yeast kick back up after I cold crash a mead.
Cold crashing refers to putting your mead into the refrigerator or some place colder than what the yeast can survive in. I place mine in my refrigerator because I know for a fact that the yeast can't survive in that temperature. I leave my mead in the refrigerator for 4 days; this is long enough for the yeast to settle down and die.
Cold crashing also allows your mead to clear up. This means that you will be able to see through it.
Step 9: Racking Mead Over to Another Carboy (Optional)
Racking your mead over to another carboy is an optional step. Some people would beg to differ, but I generally go without racking my mead.
How do you know if you need to rack your mead?
If your mead is not clearing after cold crashing, there is a possibility that it will never clear. I have never run into this problem, but some people have. If it is not clearing I would recommend racking your mead into another carboy to allow it clear up. A clear mead tastes much better than a foggy mead.
Step 10: Bottling and Aging
After you have cold crashed your mead, it is time to bottle and age. This step varies with the size of mead you are making, but since we are just making a 1 gallon batch the mead will be ready to be bottled in under 2 months.
1. Grab your large bucket and fill it up with sanitizer solution. Follow the steps that are included in step 2 of this instructable. Instead of doing 1 gallon in the large bucket, place 3 gallons of water in it with 1 full packet of sanitizer.
2. Instead of putting the honey in the water, you will now get your bottles ready for bottling. You will need roughly 12 bottles to bottle your entire gallon of mead. Also, place your siphon hose, siphon, bottling wand, and bottle caps into your large bucket..
3. After your sanitizer is ready, fill your bottles about half way. After they are all full, start dumping them out one by one.
4. Once everything is sanitized, take your siphon hose and hook it up to the siphon. After these are connected, connect the bottling wand to the other end of the siphon hose.
5. Place the siphon into the mead and the bottling wand into the first bottle.
6. Pull the leaver on the siphon and you will be able to fill your bottle. Repeat this step until all the bottles are filled or your mead is at the bottom of the jar.
7. Once all the bottles are full, cap the bottles. It is important to not touch the top of the bottles with your hands or anything that is not sanitized otherwise the mead will spoil while it is aging.
You are finally done making your mead and you can either drink the mead now or wait for a couple of months to let it age. Aging is a very long and boring process; it can take anywhere from 1 month to years. It is all up to you when you want to have your mead. Cheers!